Unified communications and social software vendors need user behavior to change. Today, too many users still check their email first thing in the morning, rather than use a browser-based internal social network to get caught up with their daily tasks. These old habits don't change overnight.
Email remains the go-to application of choice for the majority of business users, regardless of industry because email has continued to exist on an island. While social business applications and platforms are starting to see some traction, some experts believe these tools won't be adopted successfully by users unless they can be integrated with tools employees are already using, said Brad Shimmin, principal analyst at Washington, D.C.-based Current Analysis Inc. IBM has unveiled IBM Domino Social Edition 9.0, a social collaboration tool that integrates into email platforms to bring social capabilities right into the user's familiar workflow while modernizing email.
Email/social tools: Let the user decide
The IBM Domino Social Edition and Notes 9.0 -- the first offering since IBM killed its venerable Lotus brand -- turns email into a social experience, while bringing collaboration into context for employees, said Jeff Schick, vice president of social software at IBM.
IBM Domino and Notes -- a social business client -- offer a familiar user interface built into email platforms, like Microsoft Outlook, for in-context social collaboration, activity streams, and embedded experiences with IBM Connections and third-party business applications and services, Schick said.
The social and email-integrated platform combines UC and collaboration tools -- like microblogging, presence and secure file sharing, as well as rich media -- like video, all in one place for users.
"There are many [users] that live in their email experience," Schick said. "We are bringing that social network activity directly into that experience so they can view their activity streams, work with others in the same group or community they participate in, [and] update [their] status and share files."
For users who do live on the Web and within their social network, IBM Domino and Notes can be installed on a client, browser, or smartphone or tablet -- including iOS, Android, Microsoft Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10. The IBM Domino Social Edition will also allow Notes apps to run in a Web browser via a plugin, so users won't have to install a full Notes client on their devices. "Just like they can do from within email, users can click on a button at the top of their social network, and see their enterprise email without having to go to the email client," Schick said.
IBM Domino: Could email integration boost social adoption?
Email remains a primary communication tool inside enterprises, despite its lack of contextual and collaborative capabilities. Coupling social tools with email and vice versa, is one way to help drive adoption.
More in IBM Domino Social Edition
IBM ditches Lotus, prepares Domino Social Edition
Making sense of UC and collaboration tools
Integrating Domino and IBM workplace applications
"Users don't have to leave their email and go someplace else -- that really helps with not only providing a better experience, but improving adoption," IBM's Schick said.
Giving context to files that typically are exchanged over email makes the information much more useful to the employee. With social tools embedded into email, content doesn't have to be isolated from its original context. "When users exchange email using [IBM Domino], they can see the associated discussions and comments tied to that communication," Current Analysis' Shimmin said. "It's the best of both words for messaging," he said. "[Users] are keeping that ability to have one-to-one communication, but you are opening up that communication to the transparency of the social network so the value of conversation doesn't have to be lost forever in someone's inbox."
Combining social tools with email is a logical step for vendors helping enterprise customers shift away from email-only attitudes, but the ultimate goal shouldn't be to enhance email, said Bill Haskins, senior analyst for Duxbury, Mass.-based Wainhouse Research LLC. "The businesses [that] are best at social evolution are embracing [social tools] as not just … an augment to email," Haskins said. "Social can be positioned to replace email for internal communications."
While there aren't many businesses that have killed email completely, the transition away from email in lieu of a more collaborative experience has to be done slowly for many users.
"Most enterprises are still trying to make sense of social and still relying on traditional communications mediums. … Combining email with social is a baby step for enterprises, so vendors have to provide that interconnectivity," Haskins said.